Cars

Mr. Grady upgrades with his 1940 Ford pickup

Francis Grady says he's not a hot rodder, but was looking for something with a bit more speed for the highway than the Model As he has restored. This gorgeous 1940 Ford half-ton pickup is the result of friends persuading him to buy it at a swap meet and undertake a full frame-off restoration.
Francis Grady says he's not a hot rodder, but was looking for something with a bit more speed for the highway than the Model As he has restored. This gorgeous 1940 Ford half-ton pickup is the result of friends persuading him to buy it at a swap meet and undertake a full frame-off restoration. The Wichita Eagle

Francis Grady knows his way around 1920s and ’30s Fords, having restored more than 10 of them since 1970. But he was looking for something a little more modern when he found his 1940 Ford pickup at the Chickasha, Okla., swap meet about 15 years ago.

“I’m more of a Model A’er,” he says. “But I decided I needed something that would go a little faster.”

So it didn’t take that much for his friends to convince him that the ’40 pickup was worth taking home.

“I didn’t know anything about ’40 Ford pickups, but I was running out of projects and they told me it’s just like a Model A — you tear it all apart and start from scratch.”

It was only after he got it home and prepared to disassemble the truck that he learned it had the wrong bed on it, a 1946 model cargo box, which turned out to be a couple or three inches too wide, with fenders that had been crudely narrowed to fit.

“I think the guy had used drywall mud to fill in the gaps,” Grady said. “I probably would have been better off if I had gone out and found me an old rust bucket. I chewed those guys out a few times for talking me into buying it. I said, ‘Now you’re going to have to help me put it together.’ ” That was not a problem, as his friends and several other car guys pitched in to make the project happen.

The pickup was stripped down to the frame, with the mismatched cargo bed going into the scrap pile, along with those cobbled-up fenders. Grady bought a nice new reproduction bed and was able to locate three original rear fenders, which with more expert bodywork, made two nice, smooth torpedo-shaped fenders. The front fenders were in decent condition and could be saved.

Although he had virtually no history on the truck, he had hopes the 85-horsepower flathead V-8 could be salvaged too. Ironically, it was in good enough condition that it didn’t even need to be overhauled. The original radiator was cleaned out and reused, along with the factory-installed 4-speed transmission.

“I’m pretty much a purist on all my cars. I’m not a hot-rodder,” Grady explained. But he did make a few changes, the most notable being installation of a set of dual exhausts, including a pair of glass pack mufflers and chrome deflector-style exhaust tips exiting below the smoothly curved rear bumper.

“It does sound pretty good,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye.

Inside the narrow cab, the factory bench seat was reupholstered in correct leatherette material, but in place of the old cardboard headliner, he opted for a more modern look, with a fully upholstered headliner. The two-spoke steering wheel was cleaned up and refinished, as were the original gauges in the instrument panel. The metal inner door panels and dash were painted to match the exterior.

“My wife, Ruth, picked that color,” Grady said. “She said, ‘This is the red you need,’ even though she didn’t like most reds because she thought they were too gaudy.”

The deep red is accented by tasteful cream paint along the belt line of the cab.

The paint is further complimented by a set of reproduction Firestone 6.50x16 wide whitewalls riding on steel wheels with button hubcaps and ribbed stainless steel trim rings.

“I was retired by the time I started on the truck and we actually put it together pretty fast. It only took a couple of years,” Grady said. He is reluctant to name all of those who helped with the project, for fear of unintentionally leaving someone out.

“We finished it about eight years ago. We’ve put about 800 miles on it since then,” he said. “It’s about 95-percent original. We take it out and drive it around the section and blow the cobs out of it.”

It often shows up at the Haysville and Lake Afton car shows.

Francis and Ruth Grady have been married 65 years and now he’s on the prowl for another project to celebrate that landmark.

“I’m looking for a ’36 Ford sedan, either a two-door or a four-door. I had one when we got married,” he said.

If he can find one, there’s little doubt it will be every bit as nice as his deep red ’40 Ford pickup.

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